How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
When Selma Blair made her appearance at the 2019 Oscars with a black cane, I really felt what she said in her Instagram post: “This is love. A mobility aid can really be an act of love — it’s radical self-love that says, I am showing up in this world exactly as I am and I’m proud of that.”
With over 1 million followers on Instagram, Jameela has the power to reach so many people who have EDS and other disabilities who may feel invisible and alone.
People with disabilities need role models. We need to see ourselves in spaces like the Oscars or on an episode of ‘The Good Place.’
We need representation. We need to see ourselves reflected in the media that we consume.
One 2014 study found that movies have the ability to change how people view things, and it can be incredibly powerful to see yourself onscreen or on the page.
When I see someone like Selma Blair rocking a cane — and a killer outfit complete with an enviable cape — attending one of the most visible awards shows, it’s a reminder that I should be proud to use my cane.
Maintaining disability pride can be difficult in our ableist society.
I’ve been met with dirty looks and rude comments simply for using my cane to get down a crowded Boston street. I’ve been exhausted by people who seem to think that just because they don’t know what Ehlers-Danlos is, I don’t actually need things like my cane, elevator access, or seating at an event.
It’s powerful when someone with a public platform uses it to share what it’s actually like to have a disability, the way Selma Blair did with her MS.
People with disabilities rarely get to see a nuanced portrayal of our experiences onscreen. Many disabled characters on TV and in films are reduced to burdens or inspirations solely on the basis of their disability.
The movies about disability that generally win awards don’t offer viewers a complete picture of what it’s like to have a disability.
In these films, the character is completely defined by their disability, which is usually the driving force behind the plot of the film, such as in “Million Dollar Baby.”
Only four Oscars have ever been awarded to people with visible disabilities, and a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that95 percent of characters with disabilities are played by non-disabled actors.
In Hollywood, it’s almost as if disabled people don’t exist.
Celebrity role models can help change that. They can offer people with disabilities the opportunity to see ourselves in someone who’s respected and admired, and they can offer an authentic view of disability that we don’t often get to see in media.
I avoided getting a cane for years when I knew I should because I was terrified that it would somehow make me lesser.
I wish 19-year-old me could have seen Selma on the red carpet at the Oscars — she deserves to know that using a cane is love, and so is disability pride.
Alaina Leary is an editor, social media manager, and writer from Boston, Massachusetts. She's currently the assistant editor of Equally Wed Magazine and a social media editor for the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books.